Become What You Are

Excerpt from the introduction of Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up by Norman Fischer:

Time is strange. We live within it, depend on it, take it for granted, yet it relentlessly passes, and our lives slip through our fingers moment by moment. Where does time come from, and where does it go? How is it that every moment we are different, we grow, we develop, we are born, we die? What are we supposed to be doing with this life?

After many years of grappling with these questions during the course of my long spiritual journey, I have come to have a feeling for their answers. We don’t really know what appears, what time is, where it goes. But we are here to try to understand. And we all have our own way of understanding, and of expressing that understanding through the living of our lives.

Each of us has a place in this world. Taking that place, I have come to feel, is our real job as human beings. We are not generic people, we are individuals, and when we appreciate that fact completely and allow ourselves to embrace it and grow into it fully, we see that taking our unique place in this world is the one thing that gives us a sense of ultimate fulfillment.

Bantu tribesmen, it is said, sneak into the rooms of their children as they sleep and whisper in their ears, “Become what you are.”

To take our place is to mature, to grow into what we are. Mostly we take maturity for granted, as if it were something that comes quite naturally and completely as our bodies grow and our minds and hearts fill up with life experience. In fact, however, few of us are truly mature individuals; few of us really occupy our places. We are merely living out a dream of maturity, a set of received notions and images that passes for adulthood. What does it really mean to grow up? How do we do the work that will nurture a truly mature heart from which can flow healing words and deeds? Each of our lives depends on our undertaking the exploration that these questions urge us toward. And the mystery is that the whole world depends on each of us to take this human journey.